January 14, 2016

Pope Francis explains 'who am I to judge?' comment

Pope Francis' coat of arms
In July 2013, three months after his election as pontiff, Pope Francis made comments during a press conference on the plane returning to the Vatican from Rio de Janeiro after the first apostolic visit of his papacy. Speaking in Italian, he responded to a question from Brazilian journalist, Ilze Scamparini, about a priest with same sex attraction [Monsignor Ricca] and the influence of the "gay lobby". Francis' answer was a paragraph in length, yet most media only reported one sentence:
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
The statement set off a frenzy of commentary and speculation without context or perspective. The New York Times expressed the sentiments of a majority of the fourth estate noting:
Francis’s words could not have been more different from those of Benedict XVI, who in 2005 wrote that homosexuality was "a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil," and an "objective disorder." The church document said men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not become priests.
The Vatican transcript of the press conference, however, shows the Pope's complete response to be consistent with Church teaching as espoused by Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II. [See end of transcript for relevant Q&A.]


CNA/EWTN News reports that in a just released book-length interview entitled, The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis has clarified his remark. Long time Vatican journalist, Andrea Tornielli, asked His Holiness about his experience as a confessor to homosexual persons and his "who am I to judge" comment. Catholic News Agency has Francis' explanation:
On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person? I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.
I am glad that we are talking about 'homosexual people' because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity. And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love. I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together. You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it.
The media is notoriously inept at reporting on the Catholic Church and the various aspects of Catholic theology and practice. Despite the celebratory fanfare that greeted Pope Francis' "who am I to judge" pronouncement, no pope can arbitrarily alter Church Doctrine because natural law cannot be reformed.

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